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‘So You Think You Can Dance’ auditions in Atlanta and talks with Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Debbie Allen

Legendary choreographer Debbie Allen poses with "Dance Informa" managing director Deborah Searle. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Legendary choreographer and guest "So You Think You Can Dance' judge Debbie Allen poses with "Dance Informa" managing director Deborah Searle. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

“So You Think You Can Dance” has been around seven years and ratings slipped a bit last summer. I caught up with executive producer Nigel Lythgoe at Fox Theatre over the weekend where he and fellow judges Mary Murphy and Debbie Allen were sifting through the candidates for season 9 in Atlanta.

“I”m always concerned when ratings go down,” Lythgoe said during a lunch break. “The standard of dance went up and the ratings went down. But they only went down a little bit.”

He spun Fox’s move to get rid of the results show in the most positive way possible: “We wanted to reformat the show. We want people to focus on dance. In order to do that is give the results within the show so you don’t have to watch over two evenings.”

Lythgoe wants to maintain the “save for your life” portion where the two dancers with the lowest vote totals dance one more time, allowing the judges to make the final call. He’d also like a group routine as well. And as always, he’d like to introduce new forms of dance.

Lythgoe said he’s working on the format, noting that fans have Tweeted good ideas. “I’m re-energized by it,” he said. But for now, he has an entire season 11 of “Idol” to think about starting January 18.

Check out this great photo gallery from the first day of SYTYCD auditions by my colleague John Spink.

There won’t be any massive changes on “Idol,” he said. And while he does not say anything directly about “The X Factor,” how he portrays “Idol’ implies what he thinks is different about “X Factor.”

“It strengthens my thought it should be about the talent, not the judges,” he said.

Intepretation: “X Factor” is often more about the judges than the talent.

“What we have is authentic. We are the original.”

Interpretation: “X Factor” lacks authenticity and is a copycat.

“We have a lot of heart and warmth now.”

Interpretation: Simon moved his heartless soul elsewhere – and it shows.

“We have a lot of great talent.”

Interpretation: We sure beat their talent!

He held back on saying if this year is going to be the “best ever” because he says it every year to the point it’s meaningless. They are down to top 42 and it’s not 40, he said, because the judges couldn’t say no to a couple of folks.

“It’s going to be difficult for the judges,” he said, to bring it down to 24 (or whatever the semifinal number is going to be– I didn’t get a specific figure from him.)

He likes how close the judges have gotten, too. “Jennifer is genuinely a bully,” he said, tongue in cheek, “with those two boys.”

What are his thoughts about Ryan Seacrest? “We love him. I want to keep him,” he said.

“He is for my money the best host on American television,” he added.

I watched about six auditions. Last year, I got lucky and saw several that made it straight to Las Vegas. This time, I wasn’t so fortunate. Most of the dancers I saw weren’t bad technically (including a tap dancer) but they lacked personality. Then there was a guy from Winder in a white cowboy hat I guarantee will get plenty of airtime on the audition episode, a former Marine who dances hip hop. Though his moves were limited, he made up for it in spirit. He called his style “cowboy swag.”

The other dancers gave him a standing ovation and rewarded him with the Marine battle cry “Oorah!”

“I wished half the people came up and danced with such passion,” Murphy said.

“You got soul baby!” Allen added.

But does he get through to Vegas, make it only to choreography to see if he has more moves or does he get outright rejected? You’ll have to see in about five months!

Here’s Nigel’s interview:

Here’s my interview with Mary:

And here’s Debbie Allen, who talks about her time in Atlanta shooting the musical “Twist” at the Alliance Theatre in 2010 and a sitcom that never really made it anywhere about a blended family (and whose creators were indicted recently for fraud):

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

32 comments Add your comment

JTesla

January 9th, 2012
3:01 pm

Thanks Rodney.

Glad Nigel is helping run things with Idol (and ‘So you think you can dance’), he knows what he is doing.

Deirdre

January 9th, 2012
3:37 pm

Idol was very lucky to get Nigel back. I talked awhile back about the idea that Idol has a warmth to it(yes, even when Simon was there) that XF didn’t even come close to achieving. I think a lot of that has to do with Nigel because you see that same warmth on SYTYCD. Good hosts also help with the warmth factor…as we have seen.

Rickster

January 9th, 2012
5:03 pm

Have a a good evening, everyone!

JTesla

January 9th, 2012
10:40 pm

As requested… pictures of Julianne Hough (with Ryan) http://www.thesuperficial.com/photos/julianne-hough-and-ryan-seacrest-in-st-barts/julianne-hough-and-ryan-seacrest-in-st-barts-14

Comments are probably NSFW, and other pictures of Julianne are better (due to less fabric) but they are also Ryanless and hence also “better”.

Deirdre

January 10th, 2012
7:26 am

Morning!

Great quotes from Randy Jackson and Idol producer Ken Warrick on the other competition shows:

http://tv.msn.com/reality-tv/american-idol-zings-the-voice/story/

Highlander

January 10th, 2012
7:28 am

Morning!

I guess when you’re on top (as Nigel is with Idol) it’s easy to be snarky in a gracious way! :lol:

Rickster

January 10th, 2012
9:01 am

Steven Tyler previews an upcoming Supreme Court case:

Steven Tyler Schools Supreme Court on Broadcast Regulation, First Amendment
Published January 10, 2012 | Associated Press

If the U.S. Supreme Court is willing to listen, rocker Steven Tyler has something “old school” to say about nudity and profanity on broadcast TV.

“There’s a certain charm and passion and magic in not showing full-frontal nudity” or using constant profanity, Tyler said, as the high court prepared to take up a First Amendment case on the regulation of the airwaves.

“It’s really hot when you only show a little,” he said.

Granted, the Aerosmith singer tossed off a bleeped strong expletive or two on Fox’s live “American Idol” after joining it as a judge last season.

“I have (cursed on air) a couple times, because it is 2012,” Tyler said. But an occasional swear word is different than a stream of them, which he suggested could happen without rules and wouldn’t be something he welcomes.

“If you start surfing channel to channel and you’re on NBC and it’s (expletive) and channel 4 and it’s (expletive) and channel 7 and it’s (expletive), it wouldn’t be fun to surf,” he said.

Besides, he said, where’s the creativity? A pun about an “American Idol” contestant’s revealingly short outfit may be fun — “Here’s to looking up your old address,” offered Tyler — but the use of blunt language “turns it into something crass.”

“Why would I say that? I would say it to show off, I think,” he added.

There are pejorative terms, such as those involving race and gender, that never should be heard on TV, said Tyler. He returns to “Idol” with fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson for the singing contest’s 11th season, starting Jan. 18.

The Supreme Court case set to be heard Tuesday could reshape the regulation of broadcasting.

In 2010, the federal appeals court in New York threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s rules affecting the hours children are likely viewers. That includes a ban on the use of even a single curse word on live TV as well as fines against broadcasters who showed a woman’s nude buttocks on a 2003 episode of ABC’s “NYPD Blue.”

The Obama administration has objected that the appeals court stripped the FCC of its ability to police the airwaves, and the commission is appealing the ruling.

The FCC’s policy against fleeting expletives was set after a January 2003 NBC broadcast of the Golden Globes awards show, in which U2 lead singer Bono uttered the phrase “f—— brilliant.”

The FCC found its ban was also violated by a December 2002 broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards in which Cher used the phrase “F— `em” and a December 2003 Billboard awards show in which reality show star Nicole Richie said, “Have you ever tried to get cow s— out of a Prada purse? It’s not so f—— simple.”

The commission’s stepped-up broadcast indecency enforcement in recent years, including record fines for violations, was spurred in part by public outrage over Janet Jackson’s breast-baring performance during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

TV networks — including Tyler’s home base, Fox — argue that the FCC’s policy is vague, irregularly applied and outdated, affecting only broadcast television while leaving unregulated the same content if it’s delivered on cable TV or over the Internet.

Tyler predicted Monday the Supreme Court will allow “certain words, and that’s that.”

I hope he’s right. If unlimited profanity is allowed on TV… that will severely limit the amount of TV I’ll watch. Might even get rid of it altogether.

Deirdre

January 10th, 2012
9:31 am

Deirdre

January 10th, 2012
9:32 am

JTesla

January 10th, 2012
9:36 am

I have a problem with someone of diminished mental capacity speaking to the Supreme Court in such a capacity. It may be due to drugs, or maybe he turned to drugs earlier in his life due to it, but Steven Tyler has not impressed with his intelligence.

Harriett

January 10th, 2012
9:51 am

Morning!

I am reading his book now, which has gone to paperback and am enjoying reading it, actually. I hesitated, but given his discussion of his artistic influences, I decided to read it. I stood in the bookstore reading it until I decided I wanted to know more. His first musical influence was his father, a very talented classical musician. His description of harmonic fifths and the like intrigued me, too. He actually knows quite a bit about music.

JTesla

January 10th, 2012
10:01 am

But does that, and one season on Idol, make him an expert on speech and censorship? He’s one person with an opinion which makes him no different than over 300 million other people here.

Mercedes S.

January 10th, 2012
10:37 am

But those 300 million don’t have “Idol” opinions, JT.
And why should Tyler be censored from speaking to the Supreme Court Judges?
Besides, what kind of mental capacity do these folks have, doling out presidencies the way they do, to former substance abusers?

JTesla

January 10th, 2012
10:54 am

His opinion is no more educated than any of the 300 million. He doesn’t need to be censored, but perhaps they should get some real experts, instead of just getting someone with star power. It goes back to a discussion we have had numerous times of celebrities acting as experts when they don’t have a clue. Now if you were to get Clooney to talk about Sudan, or Penn to talk about Haiti I can buy that, because those two have invested a lot of time and money in those areas, but Steven Tyler is no more an expert on speech than Jenny McCarthy is an expert on vaccines.

And the “doling out presidencies” thing is a myth. The Florida Elections Board doled out the election. The election board made their decision before the sore loser decided to try and win an election through the courts. The SC just put a stop to the shenanigans.

Rickster

January 10th, 2012
10:55 am

It doesn’t say Tyler spoke directly to the SCOTUS. The first line says “If the Supreme Court is willing to listen….”

He’s just offering an opinion.

Sam-A

January 10th, 2012
10:56 am

I’m a little confused by you guys, as to who is on what side of the censure issue. I certainly don’t mind a few da-mns, he-ll’s, etc along the way, but don’t want to be bombarded over and over with “F”, as in “Goodfellas”,etc. I don’t find that word used singularly offensive, but being vomited up over and over in a sentence, etc.is not pleasant! As an adult I want to hear adult language, not all sugar plums, in my entertainment media. That said, the nasty filth contained in so much rap music is extremely offensive. And with all the young kids in the Idol audience last year, I did think Steven T was too crude for the milieu!

Sam-A

January 10th, 2012
10:58 am

Sore loser?! HA!

Sam-A

January 10th, 2012
11:14 am

Mercedes: Solidarity!

Deirdre

January 10th, 2012
11:14 am

Don’t get me started on vaccines!

JTesla

January 10th, 2012
11:15 am

Thank you for pointing that out Rickster.

Sam-A, I actually haven’t weighed in regarding censorship, because my opinion on the matter would be very unpopular. My argument goes back to one I’ve made many times, and will make many more times: I’m tired of hearing celebrities using their fame to push their pet non-charitable causes. Regardless of it being speech, impeachment, vaccines, or political ideologies, I don’t want to hear it from “celebrities.” Yes, they have an opinion, but that doesn’t make them an expert. Shut up and sing/act/judge/pose.

As an aside, one thing that disgusted me after the Iowa Caucuses was I turned to CNN and there in the background was David Carville and other expert pundits, but they were sitting on the sidelines while we listened to Piers Morgan and other nobodies offer political insight. Here they have an expert, and they are pushing Mr. Wiretap on us?

Deirdre

January 10th, 2012
11:27 am

Agree with JT. Celebrities need to stay out of it! I have opinions, too. That doesn’t mean I should be testifying before ANY court. I’m am not an expert on anything…I just play one on the blog! ;-)

Rickster

January 10th, 2012
11:34 am

“For Me” – celebrities can voice their opinions – but they must be willing to take the criticism that comes with them. And they certainly shouldn’t be looked at as experts.

As for the SCOTUS… comparing their decision in 2000 v. the country’s decision in 2008, I think the SCOTUS made a much better choice.

Rickster

January 10th, 2012
11:35 am

(Man…. I am SOOOOOOOO gonna catch it for that last comment.) :-)

Seth T

January 10th, 2012
11:37 am

Frequent/Profuse Profanity and bathroom/gross humor are signs of a limited mind. However, if the horse steps on your foot, you should not be held accountable for what you say.

The Idol crew takes a swing at The Voice. and X-Factor……..hope the link works

http://tv.msn.com/reality-tv/american-idol-zings-the-voice/story/

Rickster

January 10th, 2012
11:39 am

(I may need to go pay a visit the super secret, undisclosed, well armed, highly-secure but oh-so-comfy bunker till the imminent storm blows over.) ;-)

JTesla

January 10th, 2012
11:44 am

No flak from me Rickster, I’m too busy trying to figure out how the current guy is different from the last guy. I haven’t found too many differences yet. It’s like one of those “Spot the Differences” pictures, and I’ve only found one thing. There have to be more right?

Deirdre

January 10th, 2012
11:53 am

Hey Seth, if you look near the top of the thread you’ll see that I already posted that link.

And if a horse steps on my foot(actually one already has) I can be quite colorful!

Deirdre

January 10th, 2012
11:54 am

new thread up

Deborah Searle, Dance Informa - Managing Director

January 11th, 2012
5:24 pm

Carly

January 15th, 2012
2:52 pm

Why didn’t you cover Mary Murphy’s illegal drug use and abusive behavior (as first reported in Star magazine)?

[...] to him the strengths of “Idol.” What we have is authentic. We are the original,” he said in an interview earlier this month while he was in Atlanta for “So You Think You Can D…. “It strengthens my thought it should be about the talent, not the [...]

Deborah

January 19th, 2012
12:38 pm

Would Mary Murphy have auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance when she was younger??? Dance Informa asked her in this fun video interview at the Atlanta auditions: http://usa.danceinforma.com/articles/-/5203/